(AP) – Six militants wearing suicide vests — including one driving a car packed with explosives — attacked the gate of the Afghan intelligence in Kabul on Wednesday, setting off a blast that reportedly caused several deaths and wounded at least 30 civilians, officials said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to The Associated Press.
A high-ranking official with the intelligence agency, called the National Directorate of Security, said there were deaths from the attack but did not say how many. He declined to give his name because he was not an official spokesman.
Kabul police said the first attacker detonated his bomb at the front gate of the NDS compound and the other five, all wearing bombs strapped to their chests, piled out of a mini-van and tried to storm the gate. All were killed, a police statement said, adding that the van was also loaded with explosives, which did not detonate and was later defused by police, the statement said.
The explosion occurred about noon local time and was followed by volleys of gunfire for the next 30 minutes.
Mohammad Zahir, the chief of the Kabul police investigation unit, said at least 30 people were wounded, but he did not have information on any deaths.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw at least 10 wounded people being taken away in ambulances. Reporters could see the mangled wrecks of at least seven cars that had been caught up in the explosion. The windows of nearby shops were blown out and glass shards littered the street two blocks away.
A heavy snow started to fall as uniformed NDS agents cordoned off the area around the blown-up gate. The blast walls at the entrance were blackened from the explosion and metal pieces — apparently the remains of the entrance gate — were twisted and strewn about.
The entire NDS compound is surrounded by tall, thick cement walls designed to protect buildings from bomb blasts.
An eyewitness who was wounded by flying glass, Mohammad Zia, said he saw a car drive up to the NDS gate and blow up.
It was the second attack aimed at the intelligence agency in two months. On Dec. 6, a Taliban suicide bomber posing as a messenger of peace blew himself up while meeting with agency chief Asadullah Khalid inside a Kabul residence used for receiving guests. The attack seriously wounded Khalid and he has since then been hospitalized in the United States.
Attacks in the heavily secured Afghan capital are less common than in the country’s restive south, but they do occur and are often more sophisticated. For example, they often include multiple attackers trying to penetrate past the perimeter of armed guards and blast walls that surround government buildings and embassies. The most recent attack in Kabul was on Dec. 17, when a car bomber struck outside a compound used by a U.S. military contractor. That blast killed at least two Afghan workers and wounded more than a dozen people.
A spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan confirmed an explosion and small arms fire on Wednesday but did not provide further details. Maj. Martyn Crighton said that Afghan forces were responding to the attack and there was no involvement from the NATO military coalition.
By AMIR SHAH and HEIDI VOGT
Associated Press writers Patrick Quinn and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report in Kabul.